A couple of months ago I had an exciting two Saturdays. Puppies and kittens have provided their humans which a much-needed distraction from the boredom of lockdown. However, puppies come with their inquisitive and curious nature which can get them into trouble.
As a veterinarian whenever I see a puppy present to me not wanting to eat, vomiting and not being playful, feeling sorry for themselves, what we call in the industry NQR or Not Quite Right, alarm bells start ringing in my head. They get louder when I set eyes on these puppies and they will not take a treat in the consult room and they just have a faraway distant expression on their faces as if they are focused on some pain or some discomfort that they cannot talk about.
We had two such puppies on two Saturdays when I was working (fortunately not both on the same day!). In both these cases after a thorough physical examination we recommended X-rays and the owners consented. The X-rays for one puppy showed foreign material in the stomach and in the other showed a foreign body in the intestines. We had to take both of these puppies to emergency surgery to remove the foreign bodies. Both have thankfully made full and uneventful recoveries.
The first puppy ate a sock that was stuck in its stomach and had passed into the intestine blocking it completely. He had been vomiting for about 3 days so we assume that the sock had been stuck for a little longer than that. We call this foreign body a linear foreign body. These are particularly dangerous because the intestines in their attempt to pass the object, cut themselves on the inside, and even after the foreign body is removed there is the chance that the intestines can break down at these points causing peritonitis which can be life threatening. I did have a few sleepless nights after this particular surgery until the puppy presented for a post surgery check up, wagging his tail and ate a treat in the consult room. A big sigh of relief.
The second puppy ate a corn cob and the owners brought him in straight away, we did X-rays and went straight to surgery. The advantage here was that the intestines were quite healthy as the object had only been stuck for less than 24 hours, this made surgery a lot safer and the prognosis of a safe recovery without a breakdown a lot more likely.
With any dog or cat and in particular a puppy or a kitten, if they are vomiting and are off food, please do not delay presenting them to your vet as they could have eaten something and be obstructed. An obstruction or signs of an obstruction can be picked up on X-rays. With an obstruction, the more the delay in diagnosis and surgery, the poorer the prognosis of a safe recovery because the intestines start to devitalize and die and the surgery we need to perform becomes riskier. So please if you have a puppy or kitten that is not eating, is vomiting incessantly, do not delay and present them to your vet for an examination and let them perform a few X-rays. Your swift action might end up saving their life!
Secondly puppies and kittens are curious creatures, they will invariably get themselves into trouble. They can get hit by cars, they can get stepped on and fracture limbs or they can eat things that will get stuck and have to surgically removed etc. Based on experience over the last 9 years I strongly recommend you consider some sort of pet insurance so that your pets can get the best treatment when and where they need it. As a vet, have both my dogs insured because I know that at some stage they may need specialist care which I may not be able to provide and I want them to have the best care possible. At that time, I don’t want to be making a decision based on cost, my decision for them needs to be based only around their wellbeing and what they can and cannot cope with. Pet insurance helps take the money out of the decision-making process and that’s why we strongly recommend pet insurance for all pets.
As we see more and more puppies and kittens in new homes, please do make your homes safe for them, avoid any dangerous foods or poisons in the homes, especially rat and snail bait. We have had several cases of rat bait toxicity some of which have not ended well. Please select safe toys for your pets, soft toys that they can tear and eat, or toys with rope that they can shred and ingest in small quantities are not recommended for the risk of causing an obstruction.
Having said the above, please enjoy your new puppies and kittens but remember if they are vomiting and not eating please do not delay and present them to your vet as it may, just may be, a life and death decision.